Living in France for the past three years, I have often been asked to describe traditional Canadian cooking and I have just as often been stumped. Understanding how intertwined French culture is with food, I can appreciate why people assume that this would be a fairly easy question to answer. But the reality of simplifying and defining Canadian food as a cut-and-dried thing is a bit more complicated, at least in my opinion.
To start, Canada is roughly 15 times the size of France. And although this affords us our spacious provinces and all their wonderful geographical diversity, it also means that many different types of foods take centre stage as local specialties. Also, rather than having one singular identity, our more commonly consumed foods tell a complex story of crossed cultures and colonialism. Add to that an even longer-standing traditional First Nations diet and perspective, and the story deepens further. Simply put, when it comes to food, all that can be confusing for building a singular cultural identity for our country.
What I do know is that, every time I come home, I am amazed at the many local movements I see growing around food, especially here on the west coast where I was born. The Vancouver urban farm movement, for example, is an inspiring one. Having recently spent a few days with family on Salt Spring Island, nothing speaks more to this than the delicious handmade goat milk cheeses being produced at the Salt Spring Island Cheese Company. This recipe combines one of their plain chèvres with a basic pesto that can be adapted to suit whatever fresh herbs, seeds or nuts you happen to have on hand. Simply served with crackers, or generously spread on a burger bun, this would make an easy addition to any Canada Day celebration.
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Salt Spring Garlic Scape Goat Cheese
1 cup garlic scapes, roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces (if substituting fresh herbs like basil, you want to have roughly 1¼ cups medium-packed)
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (or pine nuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, etc.), toasted
2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated
¹/³ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small clove garlic, microplaned, if desired
¾ cup plain Salt Spring Island Chèvre cheese or plain soft goat cheese
Add first four ingredients and half of the olive oil to a food processor and pulse to combine. Allow food processor to run and slowly add remaining olive oil, blending until smooth.
Use a spatula to scrape the pesto into a medium-sized bowl.
Add garlic (if using) and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the cheese and gently fold it into the pesto until just combined. Season again if necessary.
Transfer to a smaller serving bowl.
This recipe can be made in the morning and kept in the refrigerator until ready to serve. For best results, allow to slightly soften and come to room temperature approximately 15 minutes before serving.